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Loose church steeple on Belmont to be removed

Belmont Avenue was closed between CaliforniRockwell avenues Monday morning when high winds damaged steeple ConcordiEvangelical Lutheran Church 2645 W. Belmont

Belmont Avenue was closed between California and Rockwell avenues Monday morning when high winds damaged the steeple at Concordia Evangelical Lutheran Church, at 2645 W. Belmont Ave., in Chicago. | Ashlee Rezin/for Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 20, 2013 6:14AM



An unsafe loose steeple on a more than 100-year-old Avondale neighborhood church will be removed Tuesday.

The 3 1/2 story steeple of Concordia Evangelical Lutheran Church at Belmont and Washtenaw avenues became loose, possibly from high winds, Chicago Police Officer Amina Greer, a department spokeswoman, said Monday.

A structural assessment was performed, and the church was deemed to be a hazard to the public, city Buildings Department spokeswoman Mimi Simon said. A Cook County Circuit Court judge issued an “emergency receiver” that will allow a crane to remove the steeple.

Rev. Martin Doering, pastor of the church had hoped the steeple could be saved.

“The city engineers felt like the structure could not be repaired,” he said.

The church, which has about 40 members, cannot afford to pay for the dismantling, he added.

Church services went on as normal Sunday, and there were no signs of problems when services ended, Doering said, noting, “We ended our services right around 12, 12:15. As we were leaving, the rain started.”

On Monday, city staff found “some of the supporting beams holding the steeple up have given way, and some of the bolts that hold the steeple to the beam have also been broken,” he said.

Because of high winds Monday, the steeple will not be removed until 8 a.m. Tuesday, Simon said.

The removal is expected to be completed by Tuesday afternoon.

“In Avondale, that steeple is really a landmark,” said Ward Miller, interim executive director of Preservation Chicago. He said his group has been talking to the church about getting official landmark status.

Norm Brown and Scott Miglore were doing remodeling work Monday morning on a townhome on the north side of Belmont, across the street from the church. Brown said he wasn’t worried about the steeple collapsing, even though the townhome’s owner told them how much it was swaying Sunday.

“The wind goes east and west, I figured it wouldn’t come this way,” Brown said.

But Miglore didn’t share his co-worker’s view.

“If that fell down, it would fall right into the townhouse where we’re working,” said Miglore.

Belmont Avenue remains closed eastbound to California and westbound to Rockwell, Greer said. CTA buses have also been rerouted in the area.

The Archdiocese of Chicago said it has received no reports of damages to any of its church buildings or schools due to Sunday’s storms. The Chicago-based Evangelical Lutheran Church in America also said it had received no reports of damage to ELCA church structures.

Concordia is not an ELCA church. It is a Missouri Synod Lutheran church.

The buildings department had received no other reports of damaged buildings from the storm Monday, said spokesman Bill McCaffrey.

Contributing: Sun-Times Media Wire

Email: fknowles@suntimes.com

Twitter: @KnowlesFran



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